The jury is still out on the impact of social media. Research results are mixed, with some studies pointing to the positive effects of social media and others serving as a warning to both educators and parents. Researchers still need to more accurately assess how social media usage affects learning and academic performance. A new study from Valdosta State University in Georgia aims to do just that. The research team analyzed survey responses from 659 undergraduate and graduate students from southeastern universities. Researchers wanted to understand the effects of social media on academic performance and to what extent any negative effects could be mitigated. Attention and motivation, which are shown to be strong predictors of academic performance, were selected as two essential self-regulating techniques. Attention was defined as an individual’s ability to manage their time and study environment in order to eliminate distractions. Motivation referred to an individual’s ability to exert the effort to complete a task, particularly when it does not interest them. Students’ effort levels and attention levels were evaluated using two models; one tested for the interaction effect of regulation of attention and social media usage and the other tested for the interaction effect of motivation and social media usage. Similar to other studies on this topic, the researchers’ findings were mixed. Across both models, researchers observed that the relationship between social media usage and academic performance was unaffected by control of attention or effort. Participants in the study who reported higher usage of social medial had a lower GPA regardless of regulation of attention or effort. Therefore, researchers concluded that regulation of attention and effort do not ameliorate the effects of social media usage on GPA. Self-regulated learning strategies are stronger predictors of academic outcomes compared to social media usage, which varies from one model to the next. While the effects of high social media usage on academic performance have yet to be clearly defined, evidence of the potential negative effects should signal the need for moderation. Alongside moderating social media usage, developing attention and motivation should remain a focus for educators and parents as these are stronger predictors of academic success.
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